Corn maze and other fall activities provide opportunities for family fun
by: VERN UYETAKE It isn’t hard to get lost in the Fiala Farms corn maze in the Stafford area.  Cole Fiala shows one of the routes through the 8- to 10-foot-high cornstalks.  The maze features 4-foot-wide trails and is open to the public.

Those searching for a chance to lose themselves in family-friendly fall entertainment can find it at Fiala Farms, where its second annual corn maze is open for business.

The Fiala family has run the farm, located at 21231 S.W. Johnson Road in the Stafford area, for more than 100 years, providing fresh produce and flowers throughout that time.

With the corn maze, Richard Fiala said the family hopes to tap into the current trend of 'agritainment' that's sweeping the farming industry.

Agritainment, agriculture plus entertainment, has farmers generating interest in - and revenue for - their properties with at-tractions such as hayrides, pumpkin patches and corn mazes like the Fiala family's.

'It's an opportunity to bring in more people and introduce them to the farm,' Fiala said.

Fiala said that, when he was growing up, West Linn and Lake Oswego were still relatively small towns.

'Now, both cities have grown and we have the population to support the attraction,' he said of the maze.

With the farm's close proximity to Lake Oswego, West Linn and the Portland metro area, Fiala hopes to serve as a convenient option for 'good family entertainment.'

This is the second year the Fialas have created their corn maze.

While hiring someone to design and cut a corn maze can be an expensive proposition, Fiala said he was able to do the work himself.

The five-acre maze contains 1.75 miles of 4-foot-wide trails that Fiala and helpers cut using a rototiller and a riding lawn mower when the corn was small. Its stalks now stand between 8 and 10 feet tall.

From above, the maze spells out 'FIALA FARMS' and features designs of spirals and pumpkins both large and small.

Fiala said the maze stayed true to his original design, for the most part, with only a few adaptations in a patch where the corn was slow growing.

The maze runs north to south and is laid out like a compass, Fiala said. It contains 16 points of interest, including eight that correspond with a compass' directional points.

With no wrong turns, Fiala said it takes about 40 minutes to hit all 16 points and complete the maze. But, 'it's easy to get turned around,' Fiala said, adding that the maze had even confused one of the family's friends who helped cut its trails in the first place.

There is also an option of a shorter path and a quicker exit, although most visitors take the long route, Fiala said.

He said one customer made it out after finding only eight of the interest points and insisted that, 'I'm going to come back until I find all of them.'

Fiala Farms' corn maze will remain open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Oct. 31, and Fiala said the family is considering adding twilight hours on Friday and Saturday nights. The farm may even host a 'fright night' version of the maze on Halloween.

In addition to the corn maze, Fiala Farms offers a variety of other autumn-time activities.

It operates a hay maze for the 6-and-younger set for $1 a turn, and it recently opened up its two-acre pumpkin patch, which features 21 varieties of pumpkins. It also sells fall decorations including corn stocks, squash and ornamental corn.

All of the fruits and vegetables sold are grown on the farm or on other family-owned property, including pears from a family-owned pioneer orchard originally planted in 1868 and Italian prunes. The same goes for the Fialas' selection of cut flowers, including 50 varieties of dahlias.

Next year, Fiala said the farm will offer 12 varieties of seedless table grapes, and the family has planted 10 varieties of apple trees that will produce fruit in the next three to five years.

If you go:

Fiala Farms' corn maze is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Oct. 31.

The cost of admission is $7 for those 13 and older and $5 for 6- to 12-year-olds. It is free for children 6 and under.

Now through the end of the season, 5 percent of gross sales made from maze admissions as well as the sale of Fiala Farms' fruits and vegetables will be donated to the West Linn-Wilsonville School District's Library Fund.

'It's an area of school that every student uses,' Richard Fiala said.

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